Thursday, June 29, 2006

Linux, supercomputers, and where we go from here

I found this article today, courtesy of the folks at Tectonic in South Africa: Linux continues to rule supercomputers. It seems that yet again Linux continues to rule the list of most powerful computers on the planet. Tectonic reports that 73.4% of the top 500 supercomputers use Linux, including the top two fastest machines.

Remember the days when Linux just ran on a single-processor, 32-bit, x86 system? It was big news when Linux finally made the jump to SMP support. These days, Linux runs on everything from your cell phone to the big-iron described in the Tectonic article.

"What does this have to do with open-source networking?" I hear you ask. Well, as I have gone out and talked with the press, I have repeatedly been asked questions such as, "Doesn't networking, and routing in particular, demand proprietary hardware and software in order to run at speed?" The implication of the question is that proprietary products are better since they are somehow more well-tuned than open-source products.

My typical reply is, "Well, no. Certainly there are limits to what can be achieved by a software forwarding plane, but realize that most mid-range proprietary products are using software forwarding planes, too, and you're just paying more for them than you would for more powerful commodity hardware. Further, don't confuse open-source networking with a software-based forwarding plane. Those are two orthogonal ideas. Obviously, not all closed-source products use hardware-based forwarding. Similarly, one can build open-source networking products with hardware-based forwarding for higher performance."

The fact is, open-source networking is where Linux was in 1995: single-processor, 32-bit, x86 only. There is no fundamental technical reason why it must stay that way, however. In the same way that Linux runs from your mobile phone to the fastest two supercomputers in the world, look for open-source networking to be running on everything from your low-end set-top box to your carrier core. Maybe not this month, maybe not next month, but soon...


Anonymous Milen said...

Maybe combine this with some open source hardware, say FPGAs and ASICs. If only I had some time... *sigh* But too busy destroying my own startup :-( Good luck guys, you rock.

Wed Jul 26, 11:55:00 AM 2006  

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